Messenger Xtra: Risk Management Special Report: Risk Management: Maintaining Roof Integrity

Posted by Poppy Behrens on Jul 18, 2016 12:00:00 AM

By Troy R. Bickerstaff, CIC, ARM

A focal point of self-storage facility maintenance is the integrity of the roof, especially with respect to preventing water damage claims resulting from roof leaks.

Beware Of The Risk

The counterpoint is that self-storage business operators have occasionally been informed of ways to increase their revenues by doing things that could compromise roof integrity. The most common of these are:

1. Additional revenue that can be obtained by leasing roof space to wireless service providers for the installation of antennas. The RF radiation exposure to anyone working on the roof that can result in a liability claim is one aspect of possible concern. The roof penetrations created by the antenna installations is the aspect that could result in water damage to customers’ property if roof leaks develop.

2. Additional revenue that can be obtained by leasing roof space for solar panel arrays or a promise of reduced energy costs by installing solar panels on the roofs. The roof penetration problems and installation methods often create roof leak/water damage claim potential.

3. Additional revenue that can be obtained by leasing roof space for vegetative roof tops such as for community gardens. There is also the “green” marketing pitch for reduced energy costs due to the additional insulation provided by the gardens or vegetation. While these installations do not create any true roof penetrations, commercial contractors’ experience with these types of green roofs have not been good with respect to construction defect claims for water intrusion.

Taking The Right Measures

There are proper measures to take when altering the storage building roof structures in any way, especially with respect to possibly increasing the potential for water damage.

1. Any roof penetrations created by mounting wireless antennas, solar panel arrays, or any other roof-mounted installation must have the penetrations properly sealed by an assembly that includes water-tight flashing and an acrylic elastomeric plastic sealant. Both the flashing material and sealant must be certified as resistant to ozone and UV degradation.

a. For metal roofs: If there is any rust on the roof, then that portion of the roof must first be prepared with an elastomeric primer before the penetrations are created.

b. An alternative for standing seam metal roofs is the S-5®-PV Kit mounting bracket designed and manufactured by Metal Roof Innovations, Ltd. This is a UL Listed device for mounting solar panels to metal roofs that does not create any roof penetrations.

2. Any vegetative roof installations must have additional structural support, multiple layers of membrane material to serve as root barriers, drainage and water storage layers, and a method of draining the water away from the roof and away from the building. Such installations should also receive comprehensive course-of-construction inspections concentrating on the water-proofing aspect.

Legally Speaking

An equally critical aspect to this issue is the language in the lease agreement between the self-storage business operator and the company wishing to lease the roof space. The company wishing to lease the roof space should be willing to include the following provisions in the agreement to protect the operator from any liability claims:

1. Hold harmless and indemnification provisions in the operator’s favor;

2. A duty to defend clause in the operator’s favor; and

3. A provision naming the operator as an additional insured on the lessee’s liability policies.

As a side note: These lease agreement provisions are especially critical for the circumstance of leasing property to wireless service providers for antenna installations because of the RF radiation exposure to persons working in close proximity to the antennas. The company wishing to install antennas on the operator’s property should be required to provide a copy of their RF Safety Protocol and confirm that all maintenance/service activity around the antennas is properly documented.

Increasing revenue is a good thing, but just be sure that by doing so you are not compromising the integrity of your roof.

Troy R. Bickerstaff, CIC, ARM, is the assistant vice president and loss control manager for Aspen Insurance – U.S.